When we try and picture God in our mind, we can all probably call to mind some iconic image of Jesus, God the Son. We may even be able to picture God as our Heavenly Father, God the Father. What is perhaps more challenging for us is to picture God as God the Holy Spirit. Yet God in three persons is what is known as the Trinity; the Christian faith is a Trinitarian faith. The great theologian A W Tozer said “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”
We are all very familiar with celebrating key seasons in the Church calendar – seasons like Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ; and Easter, when we remember his dying on the cross and glorious resurrection. When it comes to Pentecost though, more often than not people are a little less sure of what it is all about. It has been said that Pentecost is hugely important because it is the point at which the early church came into being – the birth of the church if you like. Let’s remind ourselves what happened: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” That describes the event, but the consequences of Pentecost were like when a pebble is thrown into a lake – the ripples extend out and out and out.
God makes promises and unlike us, he ALWAYS keeps them. And God promised to send his Holy Spirit upon His people and that is precisely what happened at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is a bringer of Comfort – the Comforter, the Advocate, and one who leads us into life in all its fullness. We are called to worship God the Father, through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. For Christians, the Holy Spirit is the power of God, whom people experience in their daily lives. He is ‘God in us’, God the helper, equipper, sustainer and encourager. The Holy Spirit intercedes for God’s people – for each and every one of us – in accordance with the will of God and brings glory to God. I find that incredibly comforting.
God sent of himself through the incarnation of Christ. He sent of himself once again in the promised Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church we see a people transformed – people come into a new depth of fellowship with God and fellowship and community with one another. In the equipping that the Holy Spirit brings we may be blessed with the gifts of the Spirit – which include apostle, teacher, pastor, evangelist, words of knowledge and wisdom and many others. The Bible tells us to “Keep on pursuing love, yet be seeking earnestly the spiritual gifts, especially the ability to prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14: 1) We know that when the gifts of the Spirit are at work, the fruit of the Spirit is in evidence. Here is a list of the fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness, Self-Control, Patience, Goodness, Gentleness, Joy, Kindness, Peace, and Love. What credible organisation wouldn’t want those at the heart of its values?
When Jesus was approaching the time of his death, he didn’t want the hearts of his disciples to be troubled because he knew that the promised Holy Spirit – the Advocate was coming. For the work that had begun in Christ before the creation of the world to be completed, he had to die, be resurrected and exalted as he ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit had to come.
We are not alone in our missional endeavours; the Holy Spirit can not only sustain us even in the face of opposition but he can also work in the hearts of those we seek to reach. And the icing on the cake is that God can do this even if our witness has at first glance been fruitless and ineffective. We are simply called to be prepared to give an account of the hope that we profess in faith, with prayer and trust God to do the rest. When we share our faith with people, we can be faithful to the gospel and we may plant or water – but it is only God – the Holy Spirit who gives the growth. If people are convicted by the truth that I share, it is through the Spirit and not through me. The Holy Spirit alone can convict people of their sin and the Good News of Christ. The Holy Spirit alone can convict people of God’s truth and righteousness. The Holy Spirit alone can convict people that the brokenness of this world is not the end or final chapter. The Holy Spirit would guide the disciples and also us into all truth.
My heart’s desire is that we as a Church might welcome the Holy Spirit to build us up and equip us with every good gift, and that there would be an outpouring – a superabundance of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. On this day of Pentecost may you grow in all fullness in the knowledge of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. With anticipation and expectation and in the quietness of our hearts let us simply say “Come, Holy Spirit, and guide us in all truth.” Amen